The colorful life of the Pedraza castle

By Geri L. Dreiling

March 2011

After the lamb luncheon at Hosteria de Pedraza and the entertainment provided by amorous storks, I strolled to the opposite end of the village with my travel companions. Eight minutes later, we were standing in front of the castle.

Pedraza’s castle was built in the Middle Ages. It is the site where two French princes were held captive as medieval bail and Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga found inspiration.

The royal saga began when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V defeated his nemesis, King Francis I of France, at the Battle of Pavia. According to the terms of the Treaty of Madrid, King Francis had to hand over his two young sons to Emperor Charles. Once the French king complied with the terms of the treaty, he’d get his boys back.  

The brothers, who were held hostage in Spain from 1526 to 1530, were moved around to various castles inside the country. One of the captivity castles was in Pedraza. It is believed that the French princes were held there in 1529. The younger of the two boys would eventually ascend to the throne as King Henry II.

The next notable event at the castle occurred about 400 years later. In 1925, Basque painter Ignacio Zuloaga bought the castle and made it his home and studio. It is still owned by the artist’s heirs who allow tourists to stroll the grounds and portions of the castle.

The tour fee is five Euros. Once through the castle wall’s ominous door covered with nasty nails and pointy metal meant to deter invaders, visitors are permitted to wander the grounds. E and his mother walked along the top of the castle’s outer wall. As an American who is used to rails and yellow caution tape, it looked a little too precarious for my tastes. Although I climbed the stairs to take a peek, my sweaty palms didn’t let me venture out too far along the wall. E’s father didn’t push it either.

Like much of Pedraza, there are beautiful archways inside the castle. Each one creates a cascade of new visual scenes as you pass through.

Of course, not everything in a castle is built for beauty.

There’s a dungeon. It wasn’t open for tours when we visited. Located in the midst of a bucolic scene of gardens and pathways, it is an underground cell. A prisoner would be led down the hole to await his fate.

The castle was also a fortress against Moorish invaders. The walls have recessed openings for sentries to peer through while they survey the surrounding countryside.

And it is a home. We were able to view a few of the rooms and admire some of Zuloaga’s art. Overall, we spent about an hour on the tour.  

When we finished, we stood outside the castle walls and admired the sierra. I lingered for just a few moments more, savoring that space when life’s pause button seems to have been pressed. I knew that once I pushed play, the travel spell would be broken. The complications of life, work and responsibility would no longer be on hold.

I would be leaving Spain the next morning. But it would be hasta luego not adiós